Wednesday, December 5, 2012

First Sunday In Advent - Waiting In Hope

Advent
[Ad-vent] noun
1. a coming into place, view, or being; arrival, especially one that is awaited
2. (usually initial capital letter) the coming of Christ into the world
3. the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ into the world. 

(from dictionary.com)


We love Advent in our home. The Hubs and I were both raised in the Lutheran tradition, so Advent observance a major part of our Christmas season and serves as a meaningful way to remember the true reason for celebrating the holiday. Traditionally, the candles are lit on the four Sundays preceding Christmas, but in accordance with an awesome church program called Family Home Evening, we have taken to celebrating on the four Mondays before instead. I actually love having an extra day in the week besides Sunday to spend remembering the "Why?" of Christmas.

This Monday, I decorated the Christmas tree, which is one of my very favorite parts of the holiday. I decided to go with a red and gold theme for our tree this year, and I think it turned out really beautifully. In addition to red and gold, I really like to add nativity-themed ornaments and stars of all kinds to our tree. 





I LOVE this bird nest ornament! Finding a bird's nest in your Christmas tree was traditionally thought to be a sign of good luck for the coming year and also symbolizes the feeling of hospitality and warmth of the home.)



Did you know that every part of the Christmas tree has a symbolic meaning? Some of it has gotten lost over the years, but the original reason that German families started incorporating the Christmas tree into their Christmas celebration is really quite meaningful!

The evergreen branches - represent Heavenly Father's eternal nature and love for us. (1 Cor 13:13)
The color red - symbolizes Christ's blood that was shed for us in atonement for falling short of the Glory of God. (Rom 3:23)
The Star on the top of the tree - symbolizes the Christmas star set in the sky to announce Christ's birth. (Matt 2:2)
The Tree Itself -  The idea of using a pine tree came about because of its arrow-like shape pointing up the sky, as if directing one's view to Heaven.

Isn't that cool?

I added a special thing to our tree this year that makes me smile every time I see it- at the foot of our tree I added an empty doll cradle with one of my great-grandmother's quilts in it. I love the contrast between the beautiful, ornate tree and this simple, crude little cradle. It's supposed to remind of just who it is that we're waiting for this season! The Inn in the scriptures might not have been ready to welcome the Baby Jesus into its arms, but we will spend the season prepared! There is room at our Inn for our Savior! The cradle is a symbol that we should be preparing a soft, inviting place in our hearts for our Lord.




In the same way, the Advent observance is rife with symbolism! The Advent wreath was actually first introduced as a part of the Lutheran litergy (apparently Germans really like symbolism), and each candle has a special  theme for the proceeding week.


There are five candles in an Advent wreath, three purple or royal blue (for the royal Son of God), one pink (for joy- Christmas is almost here!), and one white (for purity and holiness). Each candle has a special name and a special part of the Christmas story to go along with it. 

The wreath is made of evergreen boughs to symbolize God's everlasting love for us. It is round to symbolize the God's Eternal Nature. The flowers are just to make it pretty. lol. The pink and purple candles are placed in the wreath itself with the white candle in the middle. Each week, the candles are lit one by one until, on Christmas Eve, you light all of the candles. The symbol of Christ's imminent arrival becomes so beautifully apparent as, each week, the light from the candles becomes brighter and brighter until on Christmas Eve they are blazing away, just as Christ's light filled the world on Christmas!

Your family can do this, too! It's a treasured tradition in ours and I'd love to be able to share it with you!  I actually made our Advent wreath myself- it's very easy! All you need is an evergreen wreath, candles (you can actually get Advent candles at JoAnn Fabric Stores in their Christmas department, but you can use votives, ball candles, tea lights, or whatever you have handy. I've seen SUPER cute wreaths made with white votives that the person then tied pink and purple ribbons around!), and a set of Scriptures!

The first week of Advent is the Prophet's Candle (purple!), which symbolizes the many prophets of old who foretold Christ's coming and tried to prepare God's people for their Messiah, and the hope that they had in the knowledge that someday there would be One coming who would help them return to live with God. 

We read scriptures (If you happen to be LDS, you might find this helpful! It's a Mormon observance of Advent that BYU put together that incorporates scriptures from across all of the standard works, which is really helpful!) together that introduce the concept illustrated by the candle, and then light it. A good song to consider opening your family night with for this Sunday is, "Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel." That song is one of my all-time favorites! I love the medieval sounding tune and the history of this song! It's really beautiful!

Next week, I'll post the meaning of the next candle in case you want to follow along! 
Enjoy your Christmas season!

3 comments:

  1. Hey Gretchen,

    I'm curious, you said you and your hubs both grew up Lutheran but are now Mormon. Did you convert as an adult? Or were you a child and your parents converted? I love to study religions and what draws people to them.

    If this is too personal I understand. :)

    Charity

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    1. Charity-

      We both grew up in the ELCA Lutheran synod. I joined the LDS church when I was 18 and the Hubs joined a year ago this past August (two years after our marriage). For us, the church has answered a lot of questions that we both had raised about Scripture independently of each other (o subjects like death, testimony, social morality, and the Nature of God) and provided a strong base in which to raise a family. The doctrine purely and simply made sense to us, finally, after years of other spiritual advisors telling us that there were things that they couldn't answer (the teaching of the Trinity being a major one). We believe in Jesus Christ, God the Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit. We believe in salvation through the atonement of Christ as found in the Gospels. For us, the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints simply built on things that we already believed in, so it was an easy change for us.

      Thanks for asking! I always enjoy answering questions about my faith that are asked with sincerity! :o) And thanks for reading!

      G

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    2. That's awesome, thank you for sharing with me. :)

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